Innovations & Emerging Trends: KeyLeaf’s Role in the Plant-based Protein Space (Part 2)

A conversation with Dr. Anusha Samaranayaka (Dr. Anusha), KeyLeaf Lead Scientist – Proteins, and Dr. Rick Green, KeyLeaf’s President of Technology Development (Part 2 of 3)

Besides solving flavor issues, what other issues need to be overcome when formulating with plant proteins?

Dr. Anusha
Beside finding or creating the desired taste, we must create a proper texture/mouthfeel and appearance. Also, the ingredient must function properly in various environments and at various temperatures, and the desired nutritional requirements for the ingredient must be met. Functional properties of ingredients can actually be tailored to specific product applications. There are many other factors to consider such as availability at scale, cost, and anti-nutrients that can affect digestibility and health.

Which plants are currently being researched by food formulators as protein sources?

Dr. Anusha:
There are several groups of plants from which protein can be extracted. Plants in the “cereal” group mainly include wheat, rice, corn, oat, rye, and barley. Plants in the “legume” group include soybean, pea, lentil, chickpea, beans, and lupin. In the “oilseed” group we find crops like canola, flaxseed, sunflower, and hemp. The “ancient grains” category includes quinoa, chia, teff, millet, and sorghum. The catchall “other” category has plants such as potatoes, algae, fungi/mushroom, yeast, nuts, and leaves.

Which protein source is currently the focus of KeyLeaf’s R&D efforts?

Dr. Green:
We are focused on hemp seed proteins right now as the hemp industry is the area in which our company now specializes. Dr. Anusha has found many functionalities in hemp protein by purifying it to produce isolates which can then be separated off into fractions; each fraction possessing unique and important bioactive properties. This fractionation is leading to the discovery of higher value uses for the hemp protein. We have been doing this type of processing for years, working extensively with pulse and other plant proteins, which has enabled us to compile a database of plant proteins, listing the protein’s functional attributes, bioactive properties and potential value-added peptides.

What applications currently exist for hemp protein?

Dr. Green:
Hemp protein applications depend on how far you purify the protein. In the crude state, you have hemp hearts as a source for hemp protein and hemp oil. Hemp hearts and hemp flours or dry fractionated hemp proteins can be used in various bakery, snack, and extruded product applications. As we get to the more highly processed protein, we find it has good digestibility, improved solubility, and functionality. Also, there are fractions and modified proteins that work well for specific applications like beverages, alternative meats, and egg replacers.

Dr. Anusha:
At KeyLeaf, we are working with different varieties of hemp seeds to produce hemp protein, oil, and fiber ingredients as well as finished products. These include protein ingredients with 60-90 % protein purity, as well as hydrolyzed, heat treated, extruded, and fractionated proteins for specific uses. Our proteins are lighter in color and have neutral taste compared to -most hemp proteins available in the market. They also contain less fiber and offer improved functionality. Of special interest to formulators is that our protein isolates and fractions have minimal or very low carbohydrate content, allowing them to be incorporated into low-carb or keto diets. These proteins, in general, are gut friendly and easily digestible. We have also developed technologies to use hemp proteins to encapsulate various sensitive oils, bioactives, CBD and THC isolates to extend the stability and expand product applications.

Does hemp seed protein contain all the amino acids?

Dr. Green:
Yes, all nine. Relatively few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein, making hemp seeds a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The limiting amino acid in most hemp varieties and protein extracts is lysine, but hemp proteins can be combined with pulses and other lysine-rich foods to fulfil the essential amino acid requirements. As far as other applications for hemp protein, you now see dry fractionated hemp flour and wet extracted hemp proteins in baked goods, bars, shakes, and protein supplements. Hemp cereal, ready-to-drink beverages, and alternative meat applications are still an up-and-coming industry for this type of protein.

Innovations & Emerging Trends: KeyLeaf’s Role in the Plant-based Protein Space (Part 1)

A conversation with Dr. Anusha Samaranayaka (Dr. Anusha), KeyLeaf Lead Scientist – Proteins, and Dr. Rick Green, KeyLeaf’s President of Technology Development (Part 1 of 3)

Can you give an overview of KeyLeaf’s activities in the plant-based protein space?

Dr. Anusha:
For over four decades, KeyLeaf has been helping companies to process, develop, optimize, and commercialize various alternative protein ingredients. During the last 4 to 5 years, our work has mainly been focused on pulses (pea, chickpea, lentil, fava bean, and other beans), oat, and hemp. In addition to helping companies with their ingredient needs, we also undertake internal R&D projects to develop new technologies. We are also working with industry partners and academia to do collaborative research, which has so far led to the filing of four patents. As for our current R&D work, most of it involves extracting, isolating, and developing hemp protein components. We have some very exciting ingredients based on our work with hemp protein waiting to be debuted at an upcoming industry expo.

What are the key drivers in the alternative plant protein market?

Dr. Anusha:
In terms of market share, alternative plant protein has several drivers. Many consumers select plant proteins because they like the healthy image associated with them. Surveys say that 38% percent of US consumers associate plant-based proteins with health benefits, 17% believe that plant-based proteins offer superior nutritional value compared to animal protein, and 14% now believe there is no need to eat meat to intake adequate protein.

Dr. Green:
I think the public’s interest in substituting animal protein with plant protein soared with the launch of the alternative meat burgers, which were picked up by grocery stores and restaurants. There was tremendous coverage in the media of the main companies involved. The new meatless burgers were looked upon as good for the environment and as a healthier alternative to animal-based proteins. And it wasn’t all about replacing meat – manufacturers also launched plant-derived egg replacers. In addition to the health issue, another big driver was the idea that plant-derived protein meals were better for the ecosystem. Not only that: in 2016 the World Health Organization launched the “Year of the Pulse”, embracing the cultivation and consumption of protein rich pulse crops such as dry legumes, peas, lentils and chickpeas. The big push for pulse was because it would be more friendly to the environment if humans started eating more plant-based protein. The Year of the Pulse coincided quite well with the launch of the meatless burgers, and the public then became very interested in alternative proteins. Around this time, we also started to understand that we might not have enough total protein to feed the world in the future. With projections that the global population could reach 9.6 billion, potentially doubling the demand for food by 2050, the threat of planetary protein deficiency became another strong factor driving research and development of new alternative protein sources.

Dr. Anusha
The flexitarians, not vegans or vegetarians, are the real market drivers of the alternative protein space. In addition to the health benefits, they want to hear about the product’s “story”, and transparency. Sustainability and animal welfare are other key factors. Today’s consumers, especially millennials and younger generation, like to try new things, and they’ve embraced the plant-derived meat, eggs, and dairy alternatives. Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Quorn, Good Catch Foods, Just, and Ripple Foods are some of the major alternative meat, seafood, egg, and dairy/beverage companies in the plant-based protein product space right now, among many others.

Dr. Green
After enjoying tasty “meatless meat” meals and dairy alternatives, our palates began calling out “what else can you do”, whereupon food processors started developing and formulating an array of plant protein dishes from fishless fish to non-dairy ice cream. Getting the flavor and texture right proved to be the make-break issue for every company entering the plant-based protein space, — far easier to say than do.

How does KeyLeaf Excel at Scaling-up in the Food and Nutraceutical Industries ?

Commentary from Dr. Rick Green, KeyLeaf’s President of Technology Development.

“Scaling-up” is a skillset not commonly offered within the natural products industry. It involves taking a manufacturing process usually developed in a laboratory using small quantities of materials at what is called the “benchtop scale”, and identifying what equipment and process parameters, (like times and temperatures), will be required at full production scale. At the benchtop scale you consider what you need to have in place for the full production scale to be economically viable to produce a high-quality end product. The process of scaling up is taking what you learn from the bench top and then using that information to run larger pilot scale trials to validate your processing concept.

With pilot scale trials successfully completed and the processing concept validated, it’s now safe to purchase the full-scale production equipment. Scaling-up is about identifying what the production/processing line will look like, the exact machinery required, and determining the key parameters so that the line will run effectively when you move to full production scale. A proper, well-conceived scale-up program assesses the associated costs and substantially lowers a company’s risk of losing capital resources on new equipment that doesn’t produce as anticipated and must be mothballed or replaced.

KeyLeaf’s expertise at scaling-up was demonstrated when an omega-3 microalgae industrial client sought assistance to improve their product quality and output. KeyLeaf carefully evaluated their production methods and discovered the equipment they were using to extract the omega-3 from the microalgae wasn’t scalable – meaning that their process wasn’t economically viable and was too energy-intensive. KeyLeaf then reviewed many different types of equipment that were in use in different industries and identified a machine that could be modified and used for the microalgae industry. When the new equipment was installed at pilot scale in KeyLeaf’s facility, technicians were able to process 1 to 3 tons of feedstock per day – far more than the volume microalgae companies were capable of processing with their equipment. Once we demonstrated how successful the pilot scale processing was, many players in the omega-3 microalgae industry contacted KeyLeaf because they saw we were able to provide scalability as well as offer the lowest cost solutions for production.

An integral and critical part of scaling-up is being able to communicate and work with multifunctional teams – something that enables the streamlining of solutions. Because they cumulatively represent a tremendous pool of expertise, a multifunctional team can look at the data brought in from one pilot trial and quickly calculate the optimal path forward for the next trial. The team’s ability to make effective, accurate decisions reduces the number of trials needed for scale-up and eliminates the endless “trial and error” approach that becomes the default mode when the team members’ industry experience is lacking. The expertise provided by a multifunctional team is key for scale-up, and it is only possible when a roster of highly experienced scientists, engineers, technicians and marketing personnel comes together very quickly, sharing data by means of an effective communication system.

KeyLeaf’s processing lines run from 50 to 200 kilos of input material per hour at a steady state, 24 hours-per-day, 7 days-a-week. KeyLeaf continues to partner with R&D groups large and small who are looking for companies to take their ingredients and scale them up to a commercial level, a process at which KeyLeaf excels and is proud to offer to established and emerging brands.

# # #

A brief update on KeyLeaf’s current status

We are pleased to report that KeyLeaf remains open for business with both our Canadian and US facilities operational.  We are following all COVID-19 guidelines as mandated by Canadian and US health authorities and taking all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of our products and the health and safety of our staff, vendors, and those around us.

KeyLeaf continues to be available to our friends in the plant-based food, beverage, and nutritional space to provide ingredient knowledge and processing expertise to help expedite projects that may be stalled or in need of a faster track to the marketplace. With a perspective developed after working with more than 5,400 clients over four decades, it’s apparent to us that it will require alliances between all members of our industry – creatively working together and helping one another in every way we can — to successfully navigate the challenging economic landscape currently affecting us all.

Please feel free to contact KeyLeaf about your projects and ingredient needs.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Justin White
Vice President
Global Sales & Business Development
[email protected]
(306) 978-2800





KeyLeaf’s LEAN Certification – What It Means

Commentary from Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process


Last year, after years of hard work, dedication, and continuous improvement, KeyLeaf was awarded LEAN Certification by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), becoming one of only three companies in Saskatchewan to achieve that distinction.

KeyLeaf started on its LEAN Certification program in 2014 as part of a complete business transformation focusing on continuous improvement and customer value.  Lean production is founded on the idea of kaizen – or continual improvement. This philosophy implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements. The kaizen strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization to work together to address a problem or improve a process. The team uses analytical techniques to identify opportunities to eliminate waste in a targeted process or production area. The team then rapidly works to implement chosen improvements, often within 72 hours of initiating the kaizen event, typically focusing on solutions that do not involve large capital outlays. 1


Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process, comments on how KeyLeaf became involved with the LEAN Certification program and how the company has benefited from the LEAN production principles:


KeyLeaf has been on our LEAN journey for about a decade.  When we started our journey, we hired a consultant to do an assessment.  After spending a few days with us, he gave us his report.  Two of his comments were: ‘I wouldn’t want to work here’, and ‘I wouldn’t want to do business with you.’ That was a kick in the pants that told us maybe we need to take a hard look at what we’re doing and how we were doing it. Around the same time, we started working with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. They have divisions across Canada, and we became a member with CME Saskatchewan. CME was there to help coach us and mentor us as opposed to just tell us what to do. One of the key elements we took away from them was our LEAN training. 


Currently, we have almost 100 percent of our staff on-site trained at the LEAN 101 level, which consists of a one-day introductory session giving a basic understanding of the LEAN tools and methodology.  At KeyLeaf we teach and use the traditional LEAN process which is basically an adaptation of the Toyota Production System, which is where many of the LEAN principles came from.


Above the LEAN 101 level, KeyLeaf has 12 employees trained at the Yellow Belt level, where they receive instruction on all 24 of the LEAN Tools and Methodologies.  Above yellow we have eight employees trained at the Green Belt Level, where they learn to become “senseis” qualified to instruct and mentor other employees on the LEAN program.  Above Green Belt, we have two employees trained at the Black Belt level, which uses advanced tools and methodologies focusing more on systems and less on processes. We also have one Master Black Belt on site.


As part of Black Belt training, we do a one-week benchmarking mission to Japan where we visit best-in-class companies: Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Yamaha for example. In order to be “world-class” its beneficial to go and see first-hand what world-class looks like. World-class examples of lean are literally evident everywhere you go in Japan from airports, “the bullet train” to grocery stores. Aside from seeing world-class companies you experience the Japanese culture which is the epitome of respect. 


There are many internal improvements we can point to resulting from LEAN.  One of which is we’ve created a much safer and more efficient work environment; we have far better and safer ergonomics. People are less frustrated because they’re not running around looking for the right tools and materials. Things are where they need to be when they need them.


Secondly, we have a much more responsive, adaptive and agile workforce. There were many instances where we never knew what the customer was going to walk through the door nor what project they were going to throw at us. LEAN taught us a lot about how to break down a process and focus on what offered true customer value in doing so offer a much better customer experience.


The LEAN methodology has helped us create a much more usable workspace and facility. Where, in our labs and shop and virtually everywhere you looked, we once had clutter and unneeded items, we now have clean, productive spaces.  We have what we need where we need it and when we need it.


We’ve also created a culture where people have been empowered to become brilliant problem solvers — problem solvers capable of much more than merely identifying the problem.  They can break it down to understand the root cause and apply suitable controls, so we eliminate the problem altogether.


Once you become LEAN certified as an organization, it’s really the best way of doing business.  We don’t have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about what do and how to do it — it’s ingrained.  If you went to Toyota and asked them about their LEAN program, they would not know what you were talking about. It’s just the way they do business. Eliminate waste while continually trying to add value to the customer. They’re there to do their jobs, but they’re also there to think and improve things on an ongoing basis.  And that’s what we try to do. Just be better today than we were yesterday!



2019 MJBizCon Takeaways

Here are three of the many takeaways from the recent conference on Cannabis held at the Las Vegas Convention Center during MJBizCon Week, December 11-13.  The event drew marketers, business development specialists, scientists, and production personnel from all sectors of the hemp supply chain to learn and share technologies and strategies for success in the fast-moving cannabis/hemp industry. Naturally, KeyLeaf was there!

1. Edibles – the challenge of quality control

            Formulation and quality control of CBD oil are now being routinely achieved by companies in the CBD/hemp space, but formulating for CBD-infused edibles – gummies, chocolates, etc. – presents a new and different set of challenges for manufacturers. Such factors as taste and stability – not only the chemical stability of the CBD but the functional stability of the edible product so that it retains its color, and texture — are specialty areas that many companies are currently seeking solutions for.  And how do manufacturers analyze the CBD content in their gummies to ensure its accuracy?  To bolster quality control, rapid analysis systems have now been developed for accurately measuring CBD content in a variety of novel matrixes, from candy to dog treats.  This confirms that the industry is going to continue to evolve, while evolving new technology along with it.


  1. Be Nimble

As an industry, we’re far from knowing all the answers about processing in all the new markets, so processors need diversity; they need to be “nimble” and react quickly.  They need to maintain a diverse area of expertise shared amongst multifunctional teams that can move very quickly when opportunities arise in the marketplace.  For example, if a company identifies an opportunity for a bakery-based ingredient, it needs to quickly develop and validate the product.  Being nimble means that companies have a team that can set up quickly to develop a wide range of products for the marketplace.  The ability to react quickly to opportunities in the rapidly emerging CBD/hemp sector with quality products can mean the difference between success and failure of a product line, start-up, or entire company.


  1. What Lies Ahead for the Hemp/CBD industry? Unlimited growth.

While there is currently some confusion and many unanswered questions, the hemp industry is continuing to grow and is destined to make a significant impact both in the economy and in the health and wellness sectors in the next decade and beyond.  In some cases, it may be seen as a pharmaceutical, but it’s also seen as a dietary supplement, and when you look at the whole plant, hemp has application as a functional food. There are also many ingredients that we know promote health and wellness that can be blended with hemp ingredients to obtain a synergistic effect on health.  The embracing of hemp and hemp compounds by consumers in the marketplace signifies that we’re living in very exciting times, not just for the hemp industry, but for the natural health and wellness fields as well.

Ask Dr. Green: Beyond CBD Part Two

Q & A with Dr. Rick Green

President of Technology Development for KeyLeaf Life Sciences


(PART 2 OF 2)


QUESTION: You mentioned that hemp protein has some unique properties that other plant proteins don’t have.  What are some of those properties?

GREEN: A big benefit to working with hemp protein is that when effectively processed, it has a better flavor than some of the other plant-based proteins. It also has some functionality properties that are unique, and those properties depend on how you process the protein and the protein fractions. We’ve also found that hemp protein has some good emulsification properties, and there are many products that can be produced from natural emulsions.


QUESTION:  Is there anything else about hemp protein that’s unique?

GREEN: I would say hemp protein is as nutritious as any other plant protein. Hemp seeds contain approximately 30% protein, with a reasonably complete amino acid spectrum. About two thirds of hempseed protein is edestin, a highly digestible protein. All eight amino acids essential in the human diet are present, as well as others.  Hemp protein has some amino acid profiles that can be used to complement other plant proteins.  By blending it with other plant proteins you can balance the amino acid ratios and increase the nutritional value of the protein blend.


QUESTION:  What are the properties and uses of hemp oil?

GREEN: Hemp oil, which is found in the plant’s seeds, has a good omega 6 /omega 3 ratio of 3 to 1, about what is optimal for the human body. Hemp oil is of high nutritional quality because it contains good amounts of unsaturated fatty acids including oleic acid (10%–16%), linoleic acid (50%–60%), alpha-linolenic acid (20%–25%), and gamma-linolenic acid (2%–5%) Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are considered essential to human health. Hemp seed oil also provides several antioxidants, such as Vitamin E and a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, along with iron and zinc.


QUESTION: Are there uses for the oil aside from nutritional?

GREEN: Hemp oil is used in cosmetics and skin creams to promote skin health. It’s well known that hemp seed oil is a healthy oil and one of the oils that can provide some benefits for the complexion — soothing and moisturizing it.  Hemp oil is used in some cosmetic products now, but there are more to be developed as formulators become familiar with the unique properties of hemp protein and hemp oil.


QUESTION:  How much oil does the hemp seed contain?

GREEN: Up to 30 percent of the hemp seed is comprised of oil.


QUESTION: What other nutrients do we find in the hemp plant that can be extracted and monetized?

GREEN: After extracting the CBD, I believe the plant’s main asset will be the fiber from the hemp stalk. This is a very strong yet light fiber that holds significant potential for industrial applications. The industrial fiber is going to become more important as we move away from plastics to more natural solutions. There are companies right now that supplement their plastic with hemp fiber to give it strength and some biodegradability.  Some automotive companies have also produced prototypes of interior panels with hemp fiber.


QUESTION:  Does hemp have value as animal feed?

GREEN: At the moment hemp meal is undergoing testing for its suitability as feed for livestock as well as animals and pets that are not part of the food chain. Hemp certainly holds strong potential as a nutritious ingredient for animal feed.


QUESTION:  Is KeyLeaf involved in the extraction of hemp oil for industrial uses?

GREEN: We are primarily focused on hemp oil for nutritional purposes. We have also pressed hemp for industrial purposes, like machine oil and other non-food grade oils.  These industrial prototype oils have good flow properties and can be modified slightly for specific purposes; different viscosity for different uses.


QUESTION:  What other parts of the hemp plant can be profitably harvested?

DR. GREEN: The cannabinoids represent a very small percentage of the plant, so finding and monetizing additional high-value products is very advantageous for any hemp processor.  We currently have uses for virtually every part of the plant — the stalks for industrial fiber, the flowers for extraction of cannabinoids, and the seeds for protein, oil and edible fiber. With more than 25,000 hemp-based products reportedly in the marketplace, agribusiness will continue moving forward with hemp R & D programs to discover even more uses for the plant and its hundreds of high-value components.

Ask Dr. Green: Beyond CBD

Q & A with Dr. Rick Green

President of Technology Development for KeyLeaf Life Sciences

(PART 1 OF 2)

QUESTION:  In terms of consumer interest in hemp and hemp-derived products, CBD (cannabidiol) is really stealing the spotlight right now.  From your vantage point as a food ingredient scientist, what are some of the next high value hemp-derived products and ingredients that we are likely to see emerging and making a splash in the marketplace?

GREEN: We know CBD is just one of many cannabinoids. There are other molecules in the plant very similar to CBD, and they probably contribute some of the effects that we currently are attributing to CBD. We believe these other cannabinoids are going to prove very beneficial as they bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors as does CBD.  Additional clinical research will show specifically which cannabinoids and which ratios of which cannabinoids are best for addressing certain ailments.


QUESTION:  How many cannabinoids can be found in industrial hemp?

GREEN: As a natural product chemist might class them, there are more than 100 cannabinoids in hemp. In addition to these known compounds, some people also count the plant’s terpenes as cannabinoids because the terpenes contribute to the “entourage effect” – the powerful therapeutic property derived from the activity of all compounds naturally occurring in the whole hemp plant. As the interest in cannabinoids grows, researchers are finding new molecular analogues, and thus, new cannabinoids are being discovered.


QUESTION: What are hemp terpenes, and how are they being marketed?

GREEN: The terpenes give the odor and in some cases flavor to hemp products. The terpenes are derived from essential oils, and there are many good things in essential oils that provide some beneficial effects: for example, the terpene caryophyllene (specifically β-caryophyllene), which has anti-inflammatory properties.  Caryophyllene can be found in a number of herbs and spices. The essential oils are found not just in cannabis; they’re certainly present in a significant number of other plants, including black pepper, basil, and oregano. Caryophyllene and other terpenes have health benefits that we haven’t focused on yet.  The cannabis industry knows they’re there, but the consumer and most cannabis companies have been heavily focused on CBD products, which are currently leading the way as the natural dietary supplement du jour. So, if we’re asking about what is “next”, it could certainly be caryophyllene, which has demonstrated powerful anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits.  Researchers are testing caryophyllene as an intervention for inflammatory bowel disease and preliminary results in animal studies have been promising.


QUESTION:  After CBD, do you have any prediction about which hemp-derived “CB molecule” will next come under the spotlight?

GREEN: Perhaps CBN, also known as cannabinol.


QUESTION:  Is CBN demonstrating any nutritional or medical efficacy at this point?

GREEN: It is. It works as one element in the array of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant that effectively work together to produce a benefit – CBN is purported to contribute to beneficial effects that include sedative effects, analgesic, reducing inflammation and appetite suppressant. CBN is one of the major components responsible for hemp’s entourage effect.  Researchers know that the concoction of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant works to produce good outcomes when all elements are present, but they’re only now determining how effective each specific cannabinoid in the entourage is for treating specific ailments.



QUESTION:  What other hemp-based innovations and applications should we be watching for?

GREEN: We’ve made advances in hemp protein. It has some good benefits and is quite water soluble and has applications that other plant proteins don’t have. We’re going to start seeing these hemp seed proteins coming on the market and we are also looking at potential applications for hemp fiber. There is insoluble fiber in the stalk itself that can be used for industrial applications. It’s a very strong, tough yet light fiber. I’ve seen examples where it’s been used in car consoles.  In addition to production of the cannabinoids, we have a strong R&D team focused on the development of high value co-products from hemp.  These products, such as the protein, oil, fiber and various other natural product extracts from different parts of the plant, are poised to generate significant revenues for the hemp industry. KeyLeaf’s decades of experience producing plant-based extracts and ingredients enables them to fully monetize the complete hemp plant, including each of the plant’s many high-value bio-components.

The Hemp Seed

Abundant Source of Plant-based Protein, Fat, & Fiber

The increasing demand for plant-derived sources of protein coupled with increased awareness of the role dietary proteins play in nutrition and optimal health has prompted the agri-food industry to explore non-traditional sources of protein.  Boasting excellent all-around nutritional value and superior digestibility, hemp seed protein has drawn considerable interest from both the scientific and industrial sectors. In this article, the nutritional composition and health benefits of hemp protein are reviewed.

A complete protein and more

Protein-rich hemp seed has been an important source of nutrition for many cultures for thousands of years.  Technically a nut, the seed typically contains about 25% protein, with considerable amounts of dietary fiber, high levels of iron, manganese, zinc, and magnesium.  The two chief proteins in hemp seed are albumin and Edestin.  Both proteins are readily digestible and contain significant amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. Additionally, hemp seed has very high amounts of the amino acid arginine. (1)

Hemp seed & protein efficacy

The safety and efficacy of hemp seed protein has been evaluated and is recognized by Health Canada’s Non-Prescription and Natural Health Products Directorate (NNHPD) which has assessed the evidence and has determined that hemp protein concentrate and hemp protein isolate are safe and efficacious sources of protein for use in natural health products, as per the NNHPD Workout Supplements Monograph 2016. The Monograph enables licensed natural health products to claim their hemp seed protein is a nutrition source in the maintenance of good health, helps repair and build body tissue, is a protein source for muscle protein synthesis, and assists in the building of lean muscle when combined with weight resistance training and good diet(2).

Hemp protein powder as food ingredient

Hemp-derived protein powder can also be used as an ingredient in conventional foods, baked goods, beverages, cereals, dairy products, pastas, and grain products, etc. Hemp protein powders can be used in a similar manner as flour from grains (e.g., wheat, barley, rice, corn, rye, oat) as well as dairy and soy-based protein powders.  Also, a non-dairy milk and non-dairy spreads can be produced using hemp protein powder.

Hemp seeds & essential fatty acids

Oil from the hemp seed exceeds 80% in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and is a rich source of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid (18:2 omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 omega-3). The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (n6/n3) in hemp seed oil is typically between 2:1 and 3:1, the appropriate level for optimal human health.

Hemp seeds & fiber

Most of the fiber in a hemp seed lies in its outer hull or shell. However, even without the shells, hemp seeds are a good source of fiber, with three tablespoons containing approximately 1.2 g of fiber.

Looking ahead

With its complement of 9 plant-based essential proteins, heart-healthy oils, and gut-friendly dietary fiber, the tiny hemp seed is poised and ready to take its place on the front line of the plant-based food revolution.


  1. 1. “Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview”, Callaway, J.C.

Euphytica, January 2004, Volume 140, Issue 1–2, pp 65–72

2. Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice –